Appellate Court Deciding Fate of Former Kingsport Priest Convicted of Molestation
By Jamie Satterfield
July 23, 2013
The fate of a former Kingsport priest convicted in a decades-old molestation of an altar boy could rest on the shoulders of another Tennessee child rapist.
Attorneys for William “Bill” Casey, 79, on Tuesday asked a three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals to toss out convictions the former priest received in the molestation of a then-teenager more than three decades ago. The victim, Warren Tucker, now in his late 40s, did not disclose the molestation to law enforcement until 2010.
Father and son defense team Rick Spivey and Matthew Spivey are relying in large part on a Wilson County child rape case in which the victim kept the rape quiet for 42 years in arguing Casey’s constitutional rights were violated, and the case should be thrown out.
It was 1950 when Harold Winter Gray allegedly raped his niece. It would be 1992 — when she said she became concerned about possible molestation of Gray’s granddaughter — before she went to authorities.
At the time, there was no set time limit on bringing charges, just as there was none in Casey’s case. That since has been changed to a 25-year statute of limitations in child rape cases.
Gray’s case went all the way to the state Supreme Court and yielded a landmark decision, setting out a test for when a “pre-accusatorial delay” — a delay in reporting by a victim as opposed to a delay in filing charges by authorities — is just too long to be constitutionally valid.
The issue turns on two factors: What prejudice did the delay cause the defendant and is there a valid reason for the delay?
In Gray’s case, the state’s high court ruled Gray’s victim had continued contact with him throughout her life and could not reasonably rely on fear of reprisal once she became an adult. The court also opined Gray’s defense was prejudiced by the death of potential witnesses and an inability by both the victim and Gray to recall specifics 42 years later.
Matthew Spivey argued on Tuesday Casey that was in the same legal boat. Potential witnesses have died. Victim Tucker has been inconsistent with details, he argued.
Assistant Attorney General John Bledsoe countered the delay does not materially change the case or defense strategy.
“There’s no real reason to believe the resulting defense would be tried differently,” Bledsoe argued. “Our position is the defense has not shown actual prejudice because of delay.”
During the July 2011 trial, Tucker, then 46, testified Casey raped him twice — once when he was 13 and once when he was 14 — and performed oral sex on him in his mother’s trailer shortly before his 15th birthday, with Tucker saying he “felt obligated” to reciprocate the act. He described feeling powerless to resist a man he believed to be “representative of God on earth.”
Tucker testified Casey committed in excess of 50 sexual acts against him when he was between 10 and 16 years old, with most of the alleged offenses occurring in Sullivan County, but others also allegedly taking place in Greene County, McDowell County, N.C., and Scott County, Va. Although Tucker said the abuse troubled him for years, he didn’t tell anyone until 2009 when he confessed it to his parents and later began working with an advocacy group.
Casey confessed some molestation in the North Carolina incidents and was given probation. A Sullivan County judge, however, sentenced Casey to 35 years after he was convicted in the Kingsport case. He has not been prosecuted in Greene County or Virginia. It will be months before the appellate court delivers its opinion.